Charleston. Lafayette. Colorado Springs. San Bernardino. 2015 will go down in history for four horrendous acts of gun violence that were enabled by our country's easy access to these weapons of mass destruction.
Yet Congress has been paralyzed by the gun lobby like a deer in the headlights. Frozen with fear. That's why we're not safe in church, the classroom, the workplace or the movie theater. More than 100,000 people have died as a result of gun violence in the past decade, and millions have been the victims of robberies, assault, and other crimes involving guns. This must stop. Lives depend on it.
Finally, today, President Obama has said enough is enough. I cheered as he said, "The gun lobby can hold Congress hostage, but it can't hold Americans hostage."
I write this as a former TV news reporter who has covered her share of tragic shootings here in the DC area. Forty years ago, as I was starting my journalism career in Washington, I was assigned to write a series of radio editorials to get the guns off the streets of DC, which had earned the nickname "Dodge City." By the end of 1975, the District had banned handguns, but tragically in 2008 and then in 2014, the courts struck down the law as unconstitutional.
In 2002, I sat at the anchor desk at WJLA-TV over three weeks reporting the breaking news as the so-called "Beltway Snipers," Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad ambushed 13 unsuspecting strangers - including a 13-year old standing in front of a middle school - killing 10 of them. Sporting events and school were canceled. People ducked behind their cars at the gas station as they filled their tanks. I was petrified to let my own children stand at the bus stop.
This is the issue that now animates my campaign for Congress in Maryland, where I am running for the open seat vacated by Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is running for the U.S. Senate. My 8-point plan includes a national registry on gun and ammunition sales, requiring a universal 7-day waiting period on background checks on ammunition and gun sales, banning assault weapons, backing public safety campaigns and child safety education, and supporting state-based solutions such as Maryland's ban on semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic rifles. We also need to provide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with the personnel to enforce the law and put more money into mental health care, since two out of three gun deaths are from suicides. Many of these ideas were embraced by President Obama today in his executive action. But he also said Congress must act, too, to ensure that we reclaim our streets for law-abiding citizens and make sure we protect people who might turn guns on themselves.
The president is absolutely right when he says this is a political choice we have made to allow these horrendous and tragic events to happen. It is in our power to save thousands of lives. We have the technology and legislative ability to do so. But Congress has lacked the backbone and political will to stand up to the gun lobby and say "no more." Fortunately, we have a president who, with tears in his eyes, has said "no more" Sandy Hooks. No more Auroras. No more Navy Yards. No more Charlestons. No more San Bernardinos. And, in 2016, we need to elect people to Congress who will do the same. Let's get it done!